I am back from my Backroads biking trip in Bali, where it was hot, hot hot! I now refer to the experience as Bikram biking. The accomodations and cultural experiences were wonderful, the biking was not. There are three million people in Bali; two million of them are on motorbikes, the other million are driving big trucks and playing chicken with them on the roads where we were biking.
During the four plane flights to get there, I read Matt de la Pena's We Were Here. Having met Matt at the Colorado teen lit conference, I was looking forward to reading his latest book and it did not disappoint. Matt charmed me with his sincerity and earnest passion for YA lit. We talked about stories with a soundtrack and he told me one of his favorite musicians was Elliott Smith, who did the music for Good Will Hunting. He was particularly impacted by Smith's suicide- he is thought to have stabbed himself in the heart. After reading the book, I now better understand Matt's fascination with Smith and his comment that good writers lie, cheat and steal.
Matt was born in the barrio in San Diego to teenage parents (17 and 15) and basketball was his ticket out. Although We Were Here is not a sports story, basketball did play a role. The book is supposedly a court ordered journal that Miguel Castenada is required to write while in a group home in San Jose. Fed up with the group home environment, Miguel and two other inmates, Mong and Rondell, break out and attempt to flee to Mexico. Miguel continues to chronicle their adventures in the journal, slowly revealing the stories leading to each boy's incarceration and the tragic event that changed Miguel's life forever. The suspenseful pacing will keep readers anxiously turning pages to find out about the boys' survival, as well as the mystery of Miguel's crime.